The History of Jazz Aspen Snowmass

Founded in 1991 and entering its 32nd season, Jazz Aspen Snowmass (JAS) is a not-for-profit 501(c)(3) organization. The Mission of JAS is to present and preserve jazz and related forms of music through world-class events, performances, and education programs. Since 1996, JAS has generated over $8 million to support its multifaceted music education programs!

JAS has grown from a simple 3-day event in Aspen to a complex set of multi-day festivals in Aspen/Snowmass, Colorado; diverse year round music education programs; a full-scholarship summer Academy for rising jazz musicians; and the addition of the JAS Café featuring outstanding jazz musicians throughout the year in venues around Aspen. For seven years JAS produced the Sonoma Jazz + Festival in Sonoma, California.

JAS has been consistently recognized for its unique marriage of world-class music to an unparalleled natural and intimate setting, and its impeccable hospitality for artist and audiences alike. The Experience’s attracts a high end demographic of visitors from throughout the Rocky Mountain region and beyond.

JAS June Experience

The original June 1991 festival was inspired by its prestigious sister festival in Marciac (southwest) France, a charming village of 1,000 in the rolling hills of Gascogne, near the Basque country. Since it’s beginning the June Experience has evolved from a four day festival which started at the Benedict Music Tent, moved to a spectacular canopy tent in Downtown Aspen, then back to the Benedict Music Tent, and in 2019 was restructured again to include four nights of music in multiple venues spread across the Downtown Aspen Core. Attendees can enjoy as many as eleven acts nightly in seven diverse venues, all within a short stroll of one another. Experience VIP at the private downtown donor tent with catered dinner, open bars and private concerts nightly.

Labor Day Experience

The Labor Day Experience is an open air, dance oriented extravaganza of popular, R&B, rock, funk, blues, world, and soul music, taking place at Snowmass Town Park, with the spectacular Elk Mountain Range as a backdrop, catering to crowds in excess of 10,000 daily. In 2010 JAS partnered with music giants AEG Live, allowing them to bring even stronger acts to the Aspen/Snowmass community. Since then artists such as Stevie Wonder, John Mayer, Sting and Keith Urban have all performed.

JAS Café

The JAS Café Downstairs at the Nell began as a series of (3) monthly winter concerts in 2010. In 2012, responding to increasing public demand, JAS expanded the series dramatically to include (8) weekends of winter performances and (6) individual summer evening concerts, making consistent jazz programming in Aspen a truly year-round presence for the first time in JAS’ 22 year history. In addition to shows at The Little Nell, JAS also presents JAS Café performances at The Velvet Buck at the St. Regis Aspen and rooftop at the Aspen Art Museum. This intimate experience which seats just over 100 people, has been described as “an oasis of cosmopolitan cool” and a new home for sophisticated music listeners in Aspen.

JAS Ed History

JAS launched its acclaimed music education programs in 1996 with the Thelonious Monk Institute Jazz Colony, which became the JAS Academy Summer Sessions in 2000-2008 ….the nation’s only all-scholarship summer training program for gifted young emerging jazz artists. The Academy paired these young artists with acknowledged jazz masters such as Herbie Hancock, Dianne Reeves, Russell Malone, Monty Alexander and JAS Academy Artist Director Christian McBride in an intensive series of workshops, seminars and performances. In 2018 JAS reinvigorated the JAS Academy, joining forces with The Frost School of Music at the University of Miami to expand curriculum to include both performance skills and Frost curriculum on the business of music.

Additionally, JAS operates a series of companion music education programs, Local Education Initiatives (LEI), which have become the backbone of public school music funding in the Roaring Fork Valley. With an average annual school music program budget of approximately $1,400 per school, JAS’ annual average commitment of $220,000+ has become essential in supporting local student musicians and instructors.